For Matt’s birthday on Saturday, I baked him a cake, and he decided on the Guinness Chocolate Cake recipe I had from somewhere. But when we were in Ireland (for all of 3 days), he discovered Murphys, which is a stout from Cork. It’s the same idea as Guinness (well, obviously, they’re both stouts), but it’s a bit creamier and has a slightly different flavour. Anyway, he prefers it, so while I was shopping for ingredients, I made sure to get that instead.
I was curious as to how this would turn out. Would it taste weird? Also, the cake has a sauce component – you bake the cake, then you take it out of the pan, poke holes in it, and pour this sauce over it. And then you cover the whole thing in ganache, so the sauce isn’t an icing or anything. I’m sure this is a totally common feature of cakes, but it isn’t one I’d encountered, so I was very interested to see it in action.
And dude. It worked! It didn’t taste like just beer, it’s very chocolatey, and the sauce gives it little pockets of more intense flavour in each slice. The ganache kind of failed in that it was too runny and I had to let it sit overnight in the fridge to get any use out of it, but it tasted fine. I just didn’t get that classic smooth ganache finish.
Oh, and also the cake stuck to the pan and kind of broke in half when I was taking it out. I tried to cover it up, but I guess it’s a good thing Matt’s not the sort of person to get all fussy about the perfect appearance of his food, because this one certainly didn’t possess one.
Edit: ooh, awesome, I found out where I got it from! It’s from The Recipe Girl… and we took very similar pictures of the thing, although of course hers is better.
for the cake
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup stout (use Guinness, or some other stout, if you want… but seriously, Murphys IS better, and a creamier beer is a better cake ingredient, don’t you think? I highly recommend using it if you can get it in your area)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt (if you have such a measuring device… otherwise, approximate, like I did – it turned out fine)
1/3 cup butter, softened (you may have an easier time of creaming it than I did if you remember to actually SOFTEN it… derrrr)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (the original recipe specified large eggs, but who has the luxury of choosing the size of their eggs? Maybe if you have your own chickens…)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
for the sauce
1/4 cup stout – please note, this is the last amount of beer you’ll need for the actual recipe. Feel free to commence drinking the rest.
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
for the ganache
10 oz (1 1/4 cups) heavy whipping cream
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
** note: this makes more than enough ganache, even if you have a heavy hand with the stuff or – ahem – need to cover up cake ruptures. This is not necessarily a problem if you don’t mind fattening yourself up by drizzling it over ice cream… or any other good use you can think of putting it to. But if you just want enough for the cake itself, you can get by with 3/4 of that amount, for sure – maybe even a generous half.
for the cake
Now, listen. I’m going to write what I actually did; this is different on several occasions from the original recipe. The whole time I was apologizing to Matt for potentially screwing up his birthday cake. But you know what? It turned out just fine, and other than having a structural problem getting it out of the pan, it looks basically the same as The Recipe Girl’s photos. Just messier. So you can do it this way, or you can do it that way, and either way you’ll get delicious cake. And even if you don’t, you’ve got the rest of the beer to console you.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease and lightly flour a 9″ cake pan. She used an 8″ pan for a taller cake, and mine WAS quite low, but I didn’t have an 8″ pan so too bad for me.
In a small pot, combine cocoa powder and stout over low to medium heat, giving it the occasional stir, until smooth.
Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter.
Add the sugar, in increments, and beat until pale yellow.
Beat in each egg, one at a time.
Beat in the vanilla.
Beat in the buttermilk. Here is the first place in which it diverges from the original recipe – she added the buttermilk to the stout/cocoa mixture first, and then mixed that whole thing in. Whoops. Except not.
Add the stout/cocoa mixture into the batter, gradually. The original recipe had this being alternated with the flour – again, whoops.
Add the flour, gradually. The original recipe said that the batter would appear to be breaking up and look grainy at this point; mine did not, due, no doubt, to my “errors” in the order of adding things. Don’t stress yourself out over it. If it looks grainy, you’re doing it right according to her; if it doesn’t look grainy, neither did mine and it worked ok.
Pour batter into your cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick in the centre comes out clean. This was the case for me at 25 minutes.
Cool in the pan, on a wire rack with waxed paper underneath, for 10 minutes, then endeavour to get the cake out of the pan without disasters.
Once the cake is upside-down on the rack, poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork (if it doesn’t already have a bunch of gaping wounds from emergency cake surgery getting it out of the pan).
for the sauce
Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a pot over low heat, until smooth, then allow to cool.
Spoon about 3/4 of the sauce over the bottom of the cake, letting it seep in through the holes.
Now turn your cake right-side-up, poke a bunch more holes, and pour the rest of the sauce over them.
for the ganache
Bring the cream to a simmer in a small pot.
Remove from the heat and stir in chocolate until smooth. You may have to let it sit for a while or even put it in the fridge before the consistency thickens up enough to not get absorbed by the cake.
Once the desired consistency has been acheived, pour it over the cake and spread it along the sides.
If you want, you can put the excess ganache in a ziploc bag and cut the corner off and get all fancy on the decorating. Or you can just keep it for other things that need rich chocolate poured all over them (which is most things, let’s be honest).